Addendum, April 22, 2024: Legislators in Iowa are close to passing SF 2435, a bill with nearly identical language to Nebraska LB 1330. Per our February analysis, the expansive list of concepts banned by the bill would “hobble the state’s public colleges and universities, sowing chaos and confusion as general counsels attempt to interpret the list of prohibited concepts.”

Legislators in Nebraska are hard at work undermining higher education in the state in the name of destroying “woke” ideologies. Below are two bills that would threaten tenure, academic freedom, and university autonomy. If passed, the bills would put the future of higher education in Nebraska in serious doubt. 

Both bills are opposed by the University System of Nebraska, as well as the Association of Students of the University of Nebraska.


So long, tenure

With only a few lines of text, a new bill would wipe out one of the strongest foundations of academic freedom in higher education. Nebraska LB 1064 would prohibit tenure in the state university system, leaving current faculty members in doubt over their employment status. The bill is almost comically short on detail about what would happen to currently tenured faculty and will also likely scare off new hires who can pursue tenure protections elsewhere.  

In sponsor Sen. Loren Lippincott’s own words, he introduced the bill to combat “woke ideology” on campus. However, by eliminating tenure, this bill will do nothing but facilitate brain drain as qualified faculty turn to states without restrictions. Tenure exists to protect professors from political and corporate pressure, allowing them to research freely and teach according to their expertise. Sen. Lippincott may fail to see the irony in eliminating this protection for political reasons, but we don’t.


What’s DEI anyway?

In another bill, LB 1330, a litany of concepts would be banned from programming and initiatives in public colleges and universities. The list includes: “Unconscious or implicit bias, cultural appropriation, allyship, transgenderism, microaggressions, microinvalidation, group marginalization, anti-racism, systemic oppression, ethnocentrism, structural racism or inequity, social justice, intersectionality, neopronouns, inclusive language, heteronormativity, disparate impact, gender identity or theory, racial or sexual privilege” – and “any concept substantially related to any of these theories.”

This bill includes these concepts within its absurdly expansive definition of DEI, and goes on to prohibit any state funds being used to promote them. This broad definition could restrict funding for conferences or research projects, transition services for international students, or even student organizations. 

LB 1330 also prohibits colleges and universities from taking any official position on any of those concepts. That means that not only would DEI offices and initiatives become illegal, but so could cultural heritage celebrations, Pride month displays, preferred pronoun name tags, or anything that could be interpreted as “inclusive language.” The restriction on “any concept substantially related to any of these theories” is so vague that it could effectively ban universities from promoting any idea of any kind.

LB 1330 would hobble the state’s public colleges and universities, sowing chaos and confusion as general counsels attempt to interpret the list of prohibited concepts.


These bills, and more like them, are tracked in PEN America’s Index of Educational Gag Orders.